Surge in Temp Jobs Point to Stronger Economy

November 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
There are some strong signs that businesses are ready to create new jobs, even though unemployment is still on the way up.500,000 people filed for unemployment benefits last week. That's the lowest week-to-week number since the beginning of the year.

The U.S. Department of Labor also says 34,000 temporary jobs were created in the country last month, after the economy lost an average of 44,000 temp jobs every month between January 2008 and July 2009.

In better days, Robert Dominguez drove a forklift at the Community Food Bank, earning a salary while helping others in need. Now, Dominguez is the one who needs help after the food bank laid him off.

"It's just hard," he said. "Just go ask for food stamps and stuff like that, you know."

Three weeks after his last day of work, he's had no luck finding a permanent, full-time job and he's turning to temporary opportunities.

"Oh man, it's been rough," he said. "I've been putting in applications everywhere: online, and going to all these like Manpower [Temporary Services, where he spoke to Action News]."

Dominguez may be in the best place to find work. The Federal Reserve keeps a close eye on temp agencies to gauge where unemployment levels are heading.

"When things go sideways, we're the first ones affected in a negative way," said Casey Rogers of the Fresno-based staffing service Pridestaff. "And as things start turning around, we're the first ones affected in a positive way and that's what we're seeing right now."

Temp agencies offer employers a low-risk option to fill jobs without paying benefits, giving them more freedom to shed staff if things go sour again in a few months.

"I'd love to hire more help in the factory, but I don't know where this economy is going," said Emerald Packaging CEO Kevin Kelly. "I'm paranoid over the course of the recovery."

In the valley, job seekers still outnumber employers with vacant positions, even temporary ones, but the gap is closing.

"We're hearing noises from the customers talking about in December or January adding on more people," said Peggy Maslowski, of Manpower Temporary Services.

Staffing agency managers say they're expecting the turnaround to be complete within a year.

President Obama moved unemployment back to the top of his agenda Thursday, calling for a summit meeting of experts to find ways to jump start job creation. That'll happen next month at the White House.

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